Villa Rufolo in Ravello
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Villa Rufolo that opens up just next to the Duomo is emblematic of the presence of many artists and foreign people in Ravello, very much in love with the landscape and with this sublime town.
The Villa shows a layering of refurbishments and changes that should not be missed to full appreciate the strong passions that Ravello moved within people, a feeling so strong that everyone tried to leave a mark.
The original building dates back to the XIII and XIV centuries, and it is a clear example of the perpetual Islamic influence on Amalfi Coast architecture. In the XIII the villa was built by the Rufolo family on a terrace overlooking the Gulf.
The family was so rich and famous that even Boccaccio mentions Landolfo Rufolo in the Decameron.
Later on it belonged to the Confalone and the d'Afflitto's families who made their personal adjustments but moderately intervened on the original structure. The real transformation occurred when Sir Francis Neville Raid bought the villa and was determined to make it as “eclectic” as possible following XIX century trends. Hence the wild and rich garden vegetation which was to work in contrast to the straight and Classical lines of the Villa.
The access to the Villa is from Ravello's Piazza del Vescovado, where a squared based tower opens like a mouth that will take visitors into an Italian wonderland.
The tower is decorated with intertwined arches and white lime statues. The entrance path leads on the the squared courtyard, very similar to a cloister with two sets of very high loggias supported by thin columns. Everything is decorated with intricate polychromic designs which however are very balanced and give this sort of cloister a truly magical atmosphere. The inside part of the Villa is not wholly accessible to the public, the visits are limited to the Waiting hall, the lounge which eventually used as a greenhouse and the bathroom which is really the only remaining part of a more complex spa system. This room was the former calidarium.
The chapel with a maiolica tiled dome, is the antiquarium that is Villa Rufolo's private archeological exhibition: there are Roman sarcophagus, cinerary, parts of ancient mosaics, sculptures and architectural elements some of them belonging to the Duomo.
The Torre Maggiore overlooks the gorgeous wild gardens which open up onto the breathtaking view on the Gulf. Villa Rufolo's gardens are so impressive thanks to Reid's dedication and almost maniacal will to recreate an exotic park on the premises of the Villa. The obsession did however pay him back, as Richard Wagner identified the Klingsore Gardens of Parsifal's second act as to be these ones, so one never knows if a beautiful flower-woman may pop up from behind a tree.
In the meantime, since 1935, maybe in the attempt to evoke Wagner's spirit, Villa Rufolo's garden hosts Ravello Music Festival where the worlds most famous musicians come to play on the beautiful terrace overlooking the sea.